Nigeria News
Issues as governors, PASAN, JUSUN, others fight for legislative, judicial autonomy

The current face-off between the Presidency, 36 governors, Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) and the Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN) started at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic last year, precisely on Friday, May 22, 2020.  
It was actually on that day that President Muhammadu Buhari signed into law Executive Order No. 10 2020, which granted financial autonomy to states’ legislature and the judiciary.

The Executive Order mandated the Accountant-General of the federation to deduct at source, the amounts due to state legislatures and judiciaries from the monthly allocation to each state, especially for states that refuse to grant such autonomy.  The Presidency, JUSUN, PASAN and other Nigerians perceived the development as a way to further encourage separation of powers among the three arms of government at the state level. But, it was not so with the governors. They saw it as a breach and attempt to encroach on their powers.
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, shed more light on the Executive Order. He said it compelled the 36 states to include the allocations of both the legislature and the judiciary in the first-line charge of their budgets.

Malami explained that implementation of Executive Order 10 would strengthen both the legislative and judicial arms of government at the states, make them more independent and accountable in line with democratic tenets as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution.
The governors not only kicked, but those aggrieved among them also threatened to challenge the Executive Order 10 in court.  The state chief executives expressed dismay that Mr. President did not carry them along before signing the order.  They further contended that the action came so soon after financial autonomy was granted to local government councils. To the governors, Executive Order No. 10 was a breach of pending dialogue between them and the Presidency on how to go about legislative and judicial autonomy at the state level.   

However, signing Executive Order No. 10 was sequel to the dialogue, which began in 2019 between President Buhari, through his then Chief of Staff, Mallam Abba Kyari and the governors on the autonomy models preparatory to the next constitution review. Midway into the negotiation, Kyari died.

SOME of the governors’ grouses over the Executive Order was its ‘hasty’ issuance, which according to them would derail the collaboration between the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF)-led by Ekiti State governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi and the Conference of Speakers of State Houses of Assembly. Both bodies had earlier set up a committee to work out modalities for autonomy in early 2020 just before the Covid-19 pandemic crisis set in.
Governors from opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), specifically accused President Buhari of trying to use the Executive Order 10 to subvert the Constitution with a view to caging them (governors).

The governors also faulted the Order, claiming only an amendment to the 1999 Constitution could have guaranteed autonomy for state legislatures and judiciary. They claimed that the Executive Order does not have legislative force and therefore constitutes an encroachment on relevant laws stipulating the disbursement of funds from the Federation Account. One of the governors then described the Executive Order as being more of a military decree.
Despite the governors’ fury, the Presidency stood its ground.  President Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Niger Delta Affairs; Senator Ita Enang confronted the governors, stressing that Executive Order 10 is meant to give effect to the provisions of the 1999 Constitution. Enang added that it also outlines the procedure and process for the implementation of Constitutional provisions for the autonomy of state legislatures and judiciaries, which was passed by the 8th National Assembly and signed into law by the president.

Enang maintained that signing Executive Order 10 was even more necessary in managing the independence of each arm of government at a time of Coronavirus pandemic. 

culled from THE GUARDIAN